Hey y’all- hope your week is off to a great start! One of the most rewarding blog posts I have written so far is my advice to recent college graduates. Today I’m back sharing some things college freshmen should know. As a disclaimer, I am far removed from this season of life. I won’t reveal what year I entered college. Let’s just say floppy disks, boom box, and Discman were on the packing list my RA sent me prior to move-in. However, as I look back there are many things I wish I could tell my younger self when I started college. Since time travel isn’t an option, I will share some of that advice with y’all right here! Without further ado, here’s eight things college freshmen should know.
1. Study hard, but not too hard.
This might be the biggest one for me. I was such a perfectionist and overachiever in high school. When I first left for college, I knew that it would be a lot harder. I told myself it would be okay if I didn’t make straight A’s. Yet once I made all A’s and one A- my first term freshman year, I put a lot of pressure on myself to continue to perform at that level, sinceI knew I was capable. Don’t get me wrong, the sole reason to go to college is to get an education. And you definitely want to be a good steward of resources and be conscientious in your schoolwork.
However, I did not have good schoolwork-life balance in college. As a result, I missed out on some opportunities that could have enhanced my overall personal growth and development. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely proud of my academic accomplishments. But if I had to do it over again, I would study a little less and spend more time investing in relationships and campus organizations. Years down the road, you won’t remember the grade you made on a particular exam. On the other hand, you will remember the fun times you had with friends.
2. Make time to truly invest in friendships.
This second tidbit ties with my first piece of advice. Because I was so hyper-focused on school, I thought deep friendships were a bit of a distraction. Therefore I didn’t invest a ton of time and effort into nurturing friendships that went beyond the casual surface level. I definitely had some good friends in college that I enjoyed being around. But looking back, I didn’t put much energy into really getting to know people on a deeper level.
College is the one time in your life when you have community right at your fingertips with the same people in the same season of life for four years. I feel like I did not fully understand and appreciate that at the time. If I was starting all over again today, I would initiate more lunch dates and walks around the lake. I would really strive to know and love my friends on a deeper level. Putting more effort into your friendships during college will also make it easier to remain close after graduation when you’re scattered all over the country in different seasons of life.
3. It’s okay if you don’t meet your husband in college.
A common conception exists among college-aged women that college is a good place to meet your future husband. Many women hope that will be the case for them. I know when I went off to college, I definitely had the “maybe I will meet my husband here” thought in the back of my head. In fact, official tours at my campus cited that “25% of students end up marrying each other.” I heard this stat when I toured as a prospective student. Then I shared it multiple times when I was a campus tour guide.
While it’s very true that many people do meet their spouse in college, it’s totally okay if you don’t. I didn’t date at all during college (partially because I was so busy studying I didn’t really put myself out there). It was definitely hard at times not to be pursued by guys. However, looking back and knowing what I know now, college really wasn’t the right time for me to start dating my future husband. In retrospect, it was really God’s protection in preventing me from having to make an important life decision I wasn’t ready to make.
Also even though 25% of students at my alma mater meet their spouse there, 75% don’t. Therefore, I’m in good company! There’s nothing wrong with dating in college, but please don’t date someone just for the sake of dating because you are worried you only have this four year window to snag a spouse!
4. If you go through sorority recruitment, don’t let the opinions of others influence you.
I entered college with no intention of joining a sorority or even going through the recruitment process. None of the women in my family were involved in sororities. I also had this stereotype in my head of sorority girls being crazy party animals. At my school, you couldn’t join a sorority until the beginning of second semester. During the fall semester I met a few girls who were in sororities. I also learned that a good number of girls on my hall who I liked and respected were going through recruitment. This made me realize that the negative stereotype I had about sorority girls was not true. So, I decided to go through the recruitment process.
I ended up dropping out of recruitment right before the final round. I was really upset that one group I really liked had dropped me, and I was disappointed with my invitations for preference round. The two sororities that invited me to their preference round had some negative stereotypes on campus. Also, I discovered through talking with others between rounds that other potential new members did not rank these two sororities as highly. Therefore, I dropped out and didn’t go to preference round. I decided that I didn’t want the stigma of being in a sorority that had negative stereotypes and wasn’t as sought after by others.
In retrospect, I realize that this was such a faulty way of thinking and totally the wrong attitude to have. If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to the preference round of both groups who invited me. Then I would have accepted a bid and at least tried a sorority out for a few weeks. Rather than dwelling on the sororities who didn’t invite me back, I would have given the ones who did a fair chance. They saw something in me that made them want to ask me to join their sisterhood. And once rush got further in the rearview mirror, I realized that there were some great girls in the sororities that I had so abruptly written off. While I believe that everything happens for a reason and maybe it wasn’t God’s plan for me to be in a sorority, I also think that my poor attitude caused me to miss out on what could have been a very positive and fun experience.
So if you’re going through sorority recruitment, don’t believe the stereotypes you hear on campus about different sororities. Don’t discuss your opinions of sororities with other potential new members between parties. Also, don’t take it personally if a sorority you really like doesn’t invite you back to the next round. And if you go through recruitment and decide Greek life isn’t for you, that is also okay. Just make sure it’s your own genuine thoughtful decision about sorority life in general, and not a knee jerk reaction based on which sororities do or don’t invite you back to their rounds.
5. It’s okay if your friend groups change a bit throughout college.
While it may be your dream to go off to college and immediately meet a group of girls who become your lifelong besties, don’t be discouraged if that isn’t the case. I have one friend I met on move-in day who I remained close with the entire four years. I’m so thankful for the fun times I had with girls on my freshman hall. They definitely helped ease the transition of going to college over three hours from home where I knew essentially no one. However, I only remained close with one girl from my freshman hall (plus my RA who was a year older) for the duration of college.
I met new friends each year I was in college. Some of them were friends for a season, others became lifelong friends. In fact, I didn’t become friends with my bestie until literally my very last semester of college. To this day, she is still my very best friend who has been there for me for both my happiest and saddest moments over the years. So even if you do meet a core group of best friends your first week of college, always be open to new friendships God may put in your path!
6. It’s okay if your freshman roomie doesn’t become your bestie.
On a related note, it’s okay if your freshman roomie doesn’t become your bestie. I had a great roommate freshman year. She was a random potluck roomie based on my responses to the campus housing survey. I still have fond memories of meeting her and her family for dinner the night before move-in day. To give you another idea of my age, we barely knew what the other looked like prior to that meeting since it was pre-social media days. Also, our primary form of communication the summer before college was AIM Instant Messenger. Good times!
Anyways, my roomie and I had a lot of fun together during those early days as we adjusted to college life and hung out with the other girls on our hall. However, we grew apart as the year went on, simply due to us each getting involved in different things on campus. At the same time, we remained respectful of one another’s space and needs throughout the year. It’s great if you make a lifelong best friend in your freshman year roomie. However, the most important thing is that the two of you are able to respect one another as you coexist in a shoebox for the year! This was especially important for my freshman roomie and me, because we lived in the dorm with literally the smallest rooms on campus!
7. Get involved in both a campus ministry and a local church.
If you’re a Christian and really want to grow in your faith, I highly recommend getting involved in a para church campus ministry AND a local church. I went to church every week when I was in college. However, I simply showed up for service and didn’t do anything extra with my church during the week. I also didn’t seek out relationships with other people in the church who weren’t students at my university. Knowing what I know now about the value of Christian community in the local church, I would have made time to get more involved. I wouldn’t have simply attended church each week, but would have also been active in the life of a local church.
Although they don’t eliminate the need to be involved in a local church, I still highly recommend getting involved with a para church ministry on your campus. Examples include Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), or InterVarsity. I advise you to try out different Christian organizations in the first several weeks on campus. Make sure you get involved in the organization that is the best fit for you and your spiritual growth, and not simply the one your best friends go to.
I attended one para church organization my first three years of college. Then I ended up switching to a different one my senior year that was a better fit for me. Looking back, I wish I had visited more groups at the beginning, so I could have been involved all along with the one that was truly the best fit for me.
Whichever para church ministry you end up joining, do more than simply show up to weekly meetings. Get involved in a small group or the leadership team. Initiate hang-outs outside of official activities with people you meet. I mainly showed up to weekly meetings, and didn’t really go above and beyond with building deeper relationships with people I met through campus ministry organizations.
8. Don’t be afraid to seek out counseling
After spending about 6-7 months in counseling my junior year of high school for my eating disorder, depression, and anxiety, I thought that I was done with counseling for good. Yet looking back, I believe I was ignoring certain issues and thought patterns that weren’t fully resolved. In retrospect, I could have benefitted from seeking out professional counseling during my college years. I will do another more detailed post later about the value of counseling and how my attitude towards it has changed over the years.
(Photo by Amelia Cassar Photography)
Goodness, I feel like there’s so much more I could say to women who are heading off to college for the first time this fall. But this post is getting really long, and I think these eight things I mentioned sum up the most important things I wish I had known years ago! If you’re about to start college, I hope you found this post beneficial. And if you aren’t a rising college freshman but know someone who is, I would be humbled and honored if you shared these things college freshmen should know with them.
For those of you who are about to embark on your college journey, which piece of advice did you find most helpful? And if you’re further along in your college years or a college graduate, what is the most important piece of advice about college you would give your younger self?